Also interesting, and maybe not quite a coincidence, the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (which in the real world was formerly called the N2) spoke with defense writers on Wednesday. Intel guys usually are loathsome to go on record with press types so this was unusual. Of course, the topic of China came up. Highlights from the DoD version include:
Vice Adm. David J. “Jack” Dorsett, director of naval intelligence and deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance, spoke to defense writers about China’s emerging military capabilities.
“They’ve entered operational capability quicker than we frequently project,” Dorsett said.
“We’ve been on the mark on an awful lot of our assessments,” he added, “but there have been a handful of things we’ve underestimated.”
During his meeting with reporters, Dorsett said Chinese advances should be viewed in perspective. Their stealth fighter, he said, will not be fully operationally capable for years, and the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile system has been test-fired over land, but is not believed to have been tested over water against maneuvering targets.But recent developments in ballistic-missile technology have increased the probability that China could hit a maneuvering target — such as an aircraft carrier — with a missile salvo, Dorsett said.
“How proficient they are, or what that level of probability is, we don’t know,” he said. “And frankly, I’m guessing that they don’t know.”
China’s stealth aircraft, he said, likely is in early development. Based on pictures he has seen of the Chinese so-called J-20 stealth aircraft, Dorsett said, it’s not clear when it will be fully tested and operational.
“For example, while they’re developing technology and capabilities, it has just been [during] the last year and a half, two years, that we’ve seen the Chinese navy deploy out of area for any period of time,” he said.“In … late 2008, when they deployed a three-ship task group to the Gulf of Aden to conduct counterpiracy operations, that was a big step for them,” Dorsett added. “Three ships to the Gulf of Aden, compared to what the U.S. Navy does on a daily basis, … you can’t contrast the two, because the difference is so great.”
“They’ve got a used, very old Russian carrier that they’re going to probably start conducting sea trials with later this year,” he said. “They are planning on building indigenous aircraft carriers that will come into their order of battle later on, over the next decade.”But by 2020, Chinese aircraft carrier proficiency and capability will still be very limited, Dorsett said, because integrating flying aircraft into not just flight deck operations but battle group operations “takes a fair amount of time.”
“The U.S. Navy has had … 100 years of flight activity. So it’s going to take time for them to build that capability,” he said. “They’re pragmatic; they’ve got a game plan that deals in decades.”
Dorsett said in his view, China is trying to build a navy that becomes a near-term regional power, with long-term significant global implications in support of their nation.
“They want a naval force that can be deployed to protect their resource flow or their vital national interests, such as the anti-piracy operations,” he said.
The Chinese are maturing in their use of capabilities, Dorsett said. “But have you seen them deploy large groups of naval forces?” he added. “No. Have we seen large, joint, sophisticated exercises? No. Do they have any combat proficiency? No. That’s what I’m saying –- they are at the front end of developing that military capability.”